From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published August 19, 2010 08:22 AM

Dyes, Laundry Aids, and EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released action plans today to address the potential health risks of benzidine dyes, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and nonylphenol (NP)/nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). The chemicals are widely used in both consumer and industrial applications, including dyes, flame retardants, and industrial laundry detergents. The plans identify a range of actions the agency is considering under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

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Benzidine dyes are used in the production of consumer textiles, paints, printing inks, paper, and pharmaceuticals and may pose health problems, including cancer.

Benzidine is a manufactured chemical that does not occur naturally. It is a crystalline solid that may be grayish-yellow, white, or reddish-gray. In the environment, benzidine is found in either its "free" state (as an organic base), or as a salt. Benzidine was used to produce dyes for cloth, paper, and leather. It is no longer produced or used commercially in the U.S.

HBCD is used as a flame retardant in expanded polystyrene foam in the building and construction industry, as well as in some consumer products. HBCD has been shown to be persistent and bioaccumulative in the environment and may pose potential reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects in people.

Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD or HBCDD) is a brominated flame retardant. It consists of twelve carbon, eighteen hydrogen, and six bromine atoms tied to the ring. Its primary application is in extruded and expanded polystyrene foam that is used as thermal insulation in the building industry. HBCD is highly efficient in this application so that very low levels are required to reach the desired flame retardancy.

NP/NPEs are used in many industrial applications and consumer products such as detergents, cleaners, agricultural and indoor pesticides, as well as food packaging.

NPE nonionic surfactants deliver a combination of economy and performance in a wide variety of applications, including cleaning product formulations, paints and coatings, emulsion polymerization, and many others. These NPE surfactants are used anywhere there is a need for increased surface activity, and provide excellent all-purpose detergency and wetting, as well as solubilization and emulsification. Unfortunately they are not easily removed or treated from waste water and pose potentially severe health problems such as endocrine disruption.

The range of actions on these chemicals include adding HBCD and NP/NPE to EPA’s new Chemicals of Concern list, issuing significant new use rules for all three chemicals, and, for HBCD and benzidine dyes, imposing new reporting requirements on EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory and potentially banning or limiting the manufacture or use of the chemicals.

In addition to EPA’s efforts, the Textile Rental Services Association, which represents 98 percent of the industrial laundry facilities in the U.S., has committed to voluntarily phase out the use of NPEs in industrial liquid detergents by Dec. 31, 2013 and industrial powder detergents by the end of 2014.

For further information: http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals

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